We made a few navigation errors while returning from Dausa to Gurgaon, routing through smaller roads rather than the faster highway. No regrets though, for in Alwar district around Sariska, we saw some more architectural marvels as well as some of the most scenic views of the Aravallis I have laid my eyes on. I hadn’t set up any expectations, so I was delighted indeed!
Ajeybgarh loomed up before us, a seemingly lone fort atop a hillock. Then we saw some submerged monuments in a lake. We turned the corner and there it was before us, an entire town of abandoned, ruined structures. Now I know from various sources on the Internet, that Ajeybgarh is a fortified town built in the 1630s by Ajab Singh Rajawat, who was the grandson of the founding ruler of Bhangarh, Madho Singh. The family was closely related to the Mughals as Madho Singh was the younger sibling of Maharaja Mansingh, who was the General of Mughal Emperor Akbar’s army. In fact, the famous Jodha Bai was a grand aunt of Ajab Singh and both Akbar and Shahjanah were guests at Ajeybgarh.
Interestingly, Bhangarh which we did not see but isn’t too far from here, is one of the most well known haunted spots in India! Legend has it that the town was deserted overnight when an evil magician cursed it and no one is allowed to be in there after dusk. I can bet that has piqued your curiosity for this area! Mine is, for sure, but more so because it is supposed to be a magnificent heritage and archaeological site.
Later, we also passed through the town of Pratapgarh, which also is dominated by the fort that towers over its daily activities. We lost our way here, so we criss-crossed the town a few times and each time, the fort framed our views. Unfortunately the sunlight was blinding and the photographs are only silhouettes.
I’ve been to Sariska a very long time ago and to Alwar only for family weddings. The vignettes I saw on this drive certainly make for a more relaxed trip to Sariska, Alwar, Bhangarh, Ajeybgarh and Pratapgarh. I would say it would be comfortable to do this on a 3 day weekend. Alwar is only a few hours away from Gurgaon where I live. Sounds utterly doable and mu travel diary is filling again!!
I am always up for a jaunt to Old Delhi. Today’s trip was made possible by an opportunity to interact with third year students of architecture in Guru Gobind Singh University that is located inside the Ambedkar University campus at Kashmiri Gate.
Perched atop a cycle ricksha from the Metro station to the campus, I took in this quaint part of the city with unabashed curiosity. St James Church, sections of the old city wall, run down but still beautiful buildings replete with rounded edges and the wrought iron details stared back.
Inside the campus, I saw structures that are quainter still. Including the building that houses the archaeology department and the Dara Shukoh library that had a colonial facade and Shahjahani cusped arches inside!
The interaction with the kids was invigorating and layered, and I was satisfied that I could provide some valuable inputs. The walk back to the station through back lanes revealed some decaying structures, the underbelly of the city and some interesting stray dogs! All in an afternoon’s work!
On the ride back, interestingly, I struck up a conversation with a European lady who had lived in this city for six years. We discussed whether Old Delhi would get gentrified soon, how the redevelopment process could be managed to conserve its unique character and how lucrative property values could simply ruin its fabric once the old structures started falling down! Urban redevelopment is what the kids I had just spoken to were also addressing in their studio project. How complex and unresolvable the problems appear and yet, there is a need to take a stand, have a vision for different parts of the city. The sheer enjoyment of the experience of the trip to Kashmiri Gate today and the sharp contrast from the urban fabric of Gurgaon underlines the need for us to conserve older and historic parts of the city. So we can experience the past in the present and take pride in our ability to enjoy multiple slices of time in our city.